Pipe Making.   

Like my bowl turning, I have slowly gotten into pipemaking as a distraction from lutherie. I do not posses the skills or desire for carving, but I love turning in any form. I also like smoking a pipe from time to time in the workshop (or wherever pipe smoking is necessary: drinks on the veranda of the Jekyll Club while viewing the sunset over the sawgrass before dinner, reading Camus, etc.)

A few years ago I made this pipe, with a stainless steel tube. . .

because I didn't think I could do this. . .

. . .which is the pipe I just got finished making with a side-tapped wooden stem base and a commercial stem (stolen off my grabow). Obviously I have some leaning to do in this particular craft before I can consider myself a pipe-maker per se, however I may reap the pleasures instantly. This pipe took me about 2 hours to make from log to lighting up, and it performs well. The following are process photos.

This is a log of mystery wood I pulled out of the bin. Could be Eucalyptus. The first pipe I made those years ago turned out handsomely in boxwood. This wood is slightly softer than the boxwood. But this is just a trial run. No need to use the good stuff yet. Nearby is my store bought pipe, observing its final hours or usefulness.

Slice off chunk, throw on lathe, begin debarking.

Creating shoulders on each side. This blank is big enough for two pipes. One will be shallower than the other.

Taking shape.

As far as I know this bullnose-and-blade profile I turned on my first pipe, and again here, is original. That is, I have never seen it on a pipe before. But my research into this art is nascent.

The post will be grabbed by the lathe chuck and the small shoulder acts as a stop and buffer against the chuck jaws.

Break time. This is the piece of boxwood that I'll use for the "real" pipes. Its of a load I bought from Harry Vas Dias many years ago to make lute pegs. He told me he had had the wood for decades and that he had bought it from an oldtimer who himself had stored it for decades. We think it's from a tree cut down in the 1920's.

Compare color.

Next is to fabricate the stem base. First, tap the larger of the two diameters necessary for the airway. Because I'm using brad point bits, the next, smaller bit will easily find the center of the larger when plunged to make the leading edge (from the bowl) of the airway.

The larger hole is the socket for the resin pipestem. This smaller, shorter diameter is the size of the airway at the bottom of the bowl.

After both holes are cut, slice off the end to expose the smaller end. . .

. . .So you have two holes to insert conical centering chucks. Now the outside shape is guaranteed to be parallel about the inside shaft.

Tapping the hole for the stem base. I have cut the bottom post (which will be cut off later) at a slight angle and likewise have a beveled shim at the other face to hold the work at the slight angle needed for the stem.

The pipestem is turned and inserted. For this trial pipe I have just wedged it in with friction, however I imagine with the harder boxwood, and wanting to insure it never comes out with many smoking's heating and expanding and contracting the wood, I will use a high-temperature epoxy in future.

Now the post is mounted in he bowl-turning chuck to hollow out the bowl. The hollowing will conveniently slice thorough hte embedded end of the stem and expose the stem shaft hole just-so for proper draw.

Bowl hollowing in progress

Bowl complete. The final step is sawing off the post and shaping the bottom by hand.


Now my mail-order pipe stems have arrived and the stem base may be re-profiled to fit these new stems.

I naïvely thought they would come finished. These are more like stem blobs. But a little lathe work will take care of the socket blob.

I can't tell you how bad this smells. Think Serbian oil refinery on fire.

Now spokeshave and file the stem base flush with the stem and clean up the seam.

A little laquer on the bowl, heat bend the stem and we're ready to smoke.

Here's the next pipe, in boxwood. Already well smoked in.

And the bowl of same. Hanging symbolically in the background is the picture of me playing with Sean Ryan in the dungeon bar of Kinnitty Castle. Where there was much pipesmoking. And there was much rejoicing.


A new boxwood pipe, Christmas Eve, 2020. . .

. . .for a walk in the woods.

Bring it HOME.